Walking down the street or writing on the Internet shouldn’t be some radical, defiant act, but unfortunately it can be for women and LGBTQ people, who are disproportionately harassed both on the street and in cyberspace (#GamerGate, what?). That’s what a powerful video by nonprofit Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment initiative, demonstrated on Tuesday, documenting the 100+ catcalls Shoshana B. Roberts received during a 10-hour walk through New York City. And just as predictably, yet obviously shocking, the objectifying comments have been followed by death and rape threats online.
Together, members of Hollaback! and Roberts have received 10 death threats via e-mail since the video went viral. “We’ve had so many people reach out saying, ‘Thank God, this is exactly what my day looks like,’ or people who were shocked, saying, ‘I had no idea that this is what women face. I’m so grateful,’” Hollaback! co-founder Emily May told the Wall Street Journal. “But we’ve also gotten this tremendous backlash from people saying just horrific things and a number of violent threats.”
The YouTube commenters are probably the worst, ranging from dudes who don’t understand why catcalling is never welcome, commenters saying “the slut was asking for it” and even, yes, rape threats.
Interestingly, the idea for the video came from not a woman — who are so used to this shit — but a male filmmaker named Rob Bliss. According to the WSJ, he “approached Hollaback! with the idea in August after his girlfriend told him stories of being harassed while walking down the street.”
“I felt like no one had really clearly demonstrated what street harassment looks like,” he said. “No had shown the world what it looks and feels like to a person.” Now we just need a creative team to document what it feels like to be a woman on the Internet.